Friday, October 12, 2007

Had I been the kid I would have said, "That's the nicest thing you've ever said to me."

I'm not bragging because she's my oldest niece, I'm not bragging because she's family at all. If I were to see her on the street I would think, “what a pretty girl, she needs different shoes.” (It is that kind of statement that has earned me the title Aunt Don.) When I think of her I think about how she thinks, she is a laugh riot, brutally honest, smart, quick witted and yes, frankly, you can smell the oil burning on the wheels and cogs that are turning in her head. She amazes me.

Miss Jessie, as I called her when she was little, has a circle of friends that are beautiful people. They seem to be as beautiful on the inside as they are on the outside. They look like kids from a TV show. Most of them are friends from church, they all attend school together. The girls are pretty and the boys are equally handsome, and all of them seem to have hearts of gold. They care about one another and they are a close knit circle of friends. They make me sick. I mean, really, can't at least one of them have a pimple on school picture day? If nothing more, surely one of them has a really annoying laugh. I'm sure that each one is like any other human being, created as the psalmist suggested, “wonderfully and fearfully made.”

One of the things that impresses me about Miss Jessie is the fact that she accepts me, her “homo uncle”. She has a very open mind about me and she is never afraid to ask questions. I think that she appreciates my wisdom, if nothing more, the wisdom of age. I only tell her what she needs to know. Just because she's 16 doesn't mean that she needs to know everything just yet. Her questions thus far have not been intrusive, actually that have been more philosophical and spiritual in nature. I think it is safe to say that Jessie wants to know how I bring my sexuality and my spirituality together. She hasn't asked that question in so many words, but it does tend to be the tone of her queries.

Recently Jessie and her mother stopped in at the shop to pick up the dog's sweater. No, I didn't try it on, but I did use it as a pattern to make the 'haund a change of duds. Of course they would come to the gay guy in the family and ask him to work on the K9's threads. While they were visiting Jessie shared with me an experience that she had recently had while attending a youth group meeting at church. She told me of a young man who wasn't wearing the requisite baggy jeans that allowed his drawers to show above the waistband. In fact, this boy had gone so far as to move on to what could be the next trend, dare I say it? I dare, tight jeans. (Remember, everything old is new again.) When the youth minister saw him he called him queer.

Jessie and her friends were taken aback by the youth pastor's comment. In their minds the question of sexuality came first. Actually, at their age, it would have done the same thing for me, but remember, Im' the gay guy, but at 16 years old in 1976 it wasn't acceptable to be so open about it. (The June 28, 1969 Stonewall riot and Judy Garland's death had been a mere seven years earlier.)

Jessie wanted to know again, in so many words, how to put the spirituality and sexuality thing together. I think that at the time the thought hadn't crossed the kids minds that their friend may not be gay at all, though the youth minister had declared it so. The kid may have been something nearly as feared as homosexual, he may simply be trendy. YIKES! I'm proud of what did cross their minds, “We have to stick together and defend our pal.” I appreciate that, Oh man do I appreciate that.

Now, I've pointed out to my niece that when those who want to debate with her Levitical law as a way to point out the Bible's rules on the subject of homosexuality they will only want to use the “laws” that serve their own purpose. I've told her in the past that she should remind them that if we are going to go back to living by those laws then we have to live by all of them. I've told her to ask them about their penchant for ham, sausage or bacon on their Mc Donalds breakfast sandwich. These of course are no nos according to Old Testament law. Oh, and do you like shrimp? Yes? SINNER! Then there are my favorites, is that shirt 100% cotton or is it a blend, it better not be a blend. And frankly, I can't tell you the last time I saw anyone send a menstruating woman out of the city gates. It just doesn't come to mind. Are there even city gates any longer?

I've told her to suggest to them that they look at what Jesus had to say about homosexuality in the gospels. Say, “here's a copy of the Gospels, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. Here is a legal pad and a pen, you write down all of the references of Jesus' statements regarding homosexuality and I'll check back with you in about a week or so.” A smile always comes to her face and then a little impish snicker. (I told you she was smart.)

The important issue in the event that she shared with me isn't about someone being, “queer” at all. It's an issue of a person entrusted with the care and spiritual feeding of the youth of the church. To me this was glaring, it jumped off the marquee to me like the word theeter being spelled wrong. I helped her with her first concern, but pointed out that their youth minister instantly became a stumbling block. If not to them, he did to me. What he did is NOT COOL. I also reminded her that we all make mistakes, we say things that we wish we could take back later. I don't know if that was the case or not for the youth pastor, but I know I've sure done it.

What I wanted to tell her, and now I am, is that we all make mistakes providing that we are human. If her youth minister is human than he is afforded the same room to make mistakes as any other human. I think at this point there would be a little puff of brain smoke that would come from those wheels of hers as they kick into high gear. I don't think that the youth minister called the kid, “queer,” because he knows so, and if he did again I say, YIKES! Essentially, what the man did was judged a book by it's cover. The other day I heard someone say that the only thing on the cover of the book that you should judge is the price. If this is what the youth minister was doing, again, I say, NOT COOL. If we look at all this from a different angle, he also failed at his job, who knows the damage that was caused by what he did. He made fun of a kid who was daring to be different, wasn't that what Jesus' ministry was about, wasn't it daring and different?

There has been a rash of this kind of thing going on around me lately. People making judgment calls that, A: Aren't theirs to make. 2: Are very uncaring and insensitive and III: are simply inappropriate to say out loud. Are we about to go through that thing where we pass out scarlet letters again? Are we going to be cutting out pink and black triangles and yellow Star of Davids?

Now, my point, yes, I have a point, is this; I said earlier that we all make mistakes, we all have feet of clay, none of us are perfect, it's that simple. If I could put all of this into a simple phrase for Miss Jessie it would be from a sermon that I heard as a teenager or I may have been just out of high school. My dear friend Stanley Bush was an American Baptist preacher, he gave a sermon once about how we are all guilty of the same sins, each and every one of us have done things that we know are wrong, we ask God for forgiveness and yet we know that we are fragile and we'll no doubt do it again. He talked about how we all want to hold others to a higher standard than we are able to meet ourselves. He spoke of how people in the pews want to hold the minister to a standard that only Jesus could meet. He made a very profound statement that I'll never forget. He did something that was very uncharacteristic of him when he made the statement, he stepped down from the pulpit, walked off of the chancel and stood in front of the communion table and said, “I do not stand before you as the judge, I stand next to you as the accused.”

I try to remember that, but I fail, I put on my black robe and I reach for my gavel and I clear the jury box.

Jessie has seen another example of how words can be hurtful and I hope that she will remember, and I'm sure she will, that simply put, God is love and his grace is enough, period.


Anonymous UNK said...

Superb. Another wonderful lesson in life from my nephew. AAA

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